Distracted trucker not charged in deadly crash

/ Source: The Associated Press

A truck driver who was trying to recharge his cell phone when he rammed into stopped traffic on the Indiana Toll Road, killing eight people, will not face criminal charges, a prosecutor announced Tuesday.

Leonardo Cooksey, 32, may have been negligent in his actions on April 26, but he was not criminally responsible, Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis T. Hill Jr. said.

"Inadvertence alone, while an indication of negligent conduct, does not rise to the level of criminal liability, notwithstanding a catastrophic result," Hill said.

Cooksey, of Mount Prospect, Ill., was traveling 62 mph in a 65 mph zone at the time of the crash, Hill said. He was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and had been on the road for less than three hours when the accident occurred.

A state police investigation showed no evidence that Cooksey attempted to brake before he struck vehicles that had stopped because of a separate crash several hours earlier near a construction site.

Two vehicles were crushed beyond recognition — a pickup truck carrying six people, five of whom died, and a Jeep Cherokee in which two were killed. The driver of another pickup truck that was knocked off the road also died.

"How can you kill eight people and nothing happen?" said Michele Repp, whose husband, Mark Repp, was killed. "I think he should be held responsible."

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday for Cooksey at his home. A message also was left for a spokesman at New England Motor Freight of Elizabeth, N.J., where the truck was registered.